Every year in Ottawa, Rideau canal freezes up during winter, and tens of thousands of people visit the world's largest skating rink. When the canal is busy, there are no empty seats to change your shoes. Some people try to change standing up, some others wet their pants from sitting on ice.
First, I identified problems we encounter in skating. Most of the problems were related to changing shoes. The idea originated from a simple plastic box, its main function was to contain skates and provide a seating. I researched on collapsible chairs for a better idea. When I looked at the three-legged camping chair, I had my eureka moment. If legs open up, there is space in it.
Ideation & Development
To test the concept, I quickly built a prototype out of paper towels and wood scraps. From the prototype, I recognized two main challenges.
1. Hinge Mechanism
A strong hinge mechanism is important for the system because it has to maintain a weight of a person. The first iteration - a folding hinge - was tested, but it lacked in flexibility. To gain flexibility, the legs were mounted on a fabric seat. This changes allowed the legs to rotate and twist freely. To prevent the fabric from ripping, it was reinforced with nylon strip.
2. Endurance of the Structure
Maintaining the height of the chair was difficult. Initially, I thought tightening the intersection would hold legs. However, the friction was not strong enough to prevent the chair from collapsing. My solution for this problem was linking the legs together to prevent legs to spread out. By restricting the spread of the feet, height was supported even under pressure. The link was done through a metal ring around the legs. Lastly, to hide the ring, it was covered up with nylon fabric.
Research & User Testing
To make sure the bag is comfortable in both forms, I conducted research and user testing. There were three questions to answer. How tall should the chair be? How wide should the bag be? And how many straps should the bag have? From user testing, I learned that leaning over is easy as long as the height of a chair is shorter than a comfortable height. To cover the majority of a range of heights, I chose 50 percentile person as a reference. My friend who is 5'7", a 50 percentile person's height, felt it was most comfortable leaning down when the height of the chair was 14". I wanted the bag to fit all sizes of skates. From the attained height, I wanted a good ratio of height and width, also an adequate capacity. The height of the bag was 20". It was calculated from the given height of the chair. Using paper, I tried different width. Considering the composition of skates, the width was finalized at 13". Initially, I wanted the bag to have a single strap to minimize the complexity of the bag. However, from the user testing, I learned that the single strap was uncomfortable and painful when the bag got heavier. For comfort, a double strap was chosen.